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Obama says numbers still on his side

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March 5, 2008

Barack Obama suffered a setback Tuesday in his efforts to drive rival Hillary Rodham Clinton out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, but claimed the delegate math still is on his side.

“We know this: No matter what happens tonight we have nearly the same delegate lead as we did this morning and we are on our way to winning this nomination,” Obama told supporters after Clinton broke the Illinois senator’s winning streak.

Obama immediately made plans to press ahead, with visits planned in the coming days to Wyoming and Mississippi — the next two contests — and an expected showdown next month in Pennsylvania.

Clinton won Rhode Island and Ohio. But Obama still leads in the count of delegates who will decide the nomination.

He addressed supporters in front of the San Antonio Municipal Auditorium while the results in Texas — the biggest prize of the night — were up in the air.

Despite the night’s split decisions, “We can stand up with confidence and clarity,” Obama said.

Going into Tuesday’s voting, Obama had won 11 straight victories. He won Vermont on Tuesday.

“In the weeks to come, we will begin a great debate about the future of this country,” he said.

Obama’s campaign momentum slowed in the week since the presidential debate in Cleveland. He emerged from that confrontation focusing his attention almost solely on Republican contender John McCain, all but ignoring Clinton as if he had already nailed down the Democratic nomination.

But he was thrown off-stride by a Clinton television ad portraying her as the leader who voters want on the phone when a crisis occurs in the middle of the night, “while your children are safe and asleep.”

And over the past few days, he was dogged by allegations that he had overstated his opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement to win votes in Ohio; and by his past ties to Chicago businessman Antoin “Tony” Rezko, who is on trial on political corruption charges.

Obama was returning to his hometown of Chicago on Wednesday to regroup.

Earlier Tuesday, Obama told reporters he expected a prolonged race, not the hoped for knock-out punch.

Clinton, he said, “is a tenacious and determined candidate. And so we’re going to make sure that we work as hard as we can — as long as it takes.”